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Posted: February 1, 2012

It’s hard to find much to cheer about with the Florida primaries--or any primaries going on at the moment.  However, the one thing that Florida does is bring a focus on seniors.  Florida has an abundance of people over 65 and candidates campaigning there must pay attention to the concerns of older Americans.

Given the demographic tsunami that is about to hit us, this level of attention should be an every day reality for politicians and community leaders alike:  by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans over 90 years old will quadruple--from about 1.8 million to over 8 million.  This is going to have a huge impact, and we should be planning now to address the vast needs this age distribution will inevitably create.

Granted, every senior regardless of age is unique.  But it’s fairly easy to predict 2 things: (1) with that many people over 90, the level of frailty on average will be higher than for those in younger age brackets; and (2) the economic challenges will be great--poverty is correlated with advanced age, as people’s retirement savings are eaten up with housing, energy, food and medical costs far in excess of what they predicted in an earlier time.

The JCHE model of supportive housing affordable to all makes sense from so many perspectives.  By having an affordable home, seniors don’t have to choose between filling prescriptions and paying rent (and sadly many do face that dilemma).  The supports allow people to remain in their homes rather than submit to institutional care--preferable when viewed from both a quality-of-life and a cost-of-care lens.  And, significantly, seniors won’t face the loneliness that can so easily ensue when frailty limits mobility.

Those of us who care about the respect our elders are due need to work to keep a focus on seniors at the forefront of the national conversation.

As always, I welcome your comments!




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